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November 25, 2011 > California Conservation Corps turns 35

California Conservation Corps turns 35

Submitted By Susanne Levitsky

The California Conservation Corps has now been around for 35 years, but don't expect to see balloons or birthday celebrations. Instead, the CCC will mark the anniversary with shovels, chain saws and chippers.

CCC's motto is "hard work, low pay, miserable conditions... and more." True to form, corps members will find themselves commemorating the 35 years with more work throughout the state.

The program was created by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 1976, during his first term. Modeled after the original 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps, Gov. Brown envisioned a "combination Jesuit seminary, Israeli kibbutz and Marine Corps boot camp."

Since 1976, more than 115,000 young men and women have participated in the CCC, earning minimum wage for natural resource work and emergency response. Despite the low pay, there are more than 800 applicants currently on the CCC's waiting list. Corpsmembers have devoted more than 67 million hours to conservation work throughout California, planting 21 million trees, constructing or repairing 9,779 miles of backcountry trails, improving more than 1800 miles of salmon and steelhead habitat, and auditing and retrofitting more than 25 million square feet of public buildings to reduce energy use.

CCC crews may be most visible as they respond to floods, fires, earthquakes, oil spills and pest infestations. Corps members have provided more than 9.6 million emergency hours and assisted with recovery efforts following the Station Fire (2009), the Oakland Hills Fire (1991), the Loma Prieta (1989) and Northridge (1994) earthquakes and many other natural disasters.

Corpsmembers - young men and women ages 18 to 25 - work out of 27 different residential and nonresidential sites throughout California. The CCC is the oldest and largest conservation corps program in the country.

After a year in the CCC, many corps members are hired by resource management agencies, others have become teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officers and small business owners. There are now second-generation corps members, sons and daughters of early-day corps members.

In recognition of the CCC's anniversary, corps members from throughout the state submitted more than 1,000 video clips to showcase "A Day in the Life" of the CCC. The footage was shot during a two-week period in October and also includes some vintage video of the late B.T. Collins (CCC director 1979-81) as well as reflections from CCC Director David Muraki. The video is posted on YouTube at and also on the CCC's website:

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